Vigil planned ahead of evic­tion

City says 23 shel­ter beds are avail­able, but some home­less campers say they’re not go­ing to budge from tent city

The Peterborough Examiner - - Front Page - JOELLE KOVACH Ex­am­iner Staff Writer

Cit­i­zens are in­vited to hold vigil along the edges of Vic­to­ria Park on Tues­day morn­ing as the home­less encampment there is ex­pected to be dis­man­tled at 9 a.m.

Ac­tivist Rachelle Sauve sent out a no­tice Mon­day invit­ing peo­ple to come stand watch over Vic­to­ria Park to cre­ate “a cir­cle of care, sol­i­dar­ity and wit­ness­ing” as the park closes to campers.

The idea be­hind the vigil is “to en­sure that if po­lice are to pur­sue re­moval and displaceme­nt of peo­ple from Vic­to­ria Park, there are wit­nesses,” states Sauve’s no­tice.

Cit­i­zens are asked to gather at Con­fed­er­a­tion Square at 7 a.m., and then pro­ceed to the ar­eas sur­round­ing Vic­to­ria Park.

The vigil is ex­pected to con­tinue un­til 11 a.m., al­though the no­tice states that it’s ex­pected some peo­ple will re­main through the day and pos­si­bly Tues­day night.

Vic­to­ria Park has had a home­less encampment of more than 40 tents since the Warm­ing Room shel­ter closed on July 1.

The shel­ter closed be­cause the build­ing where it was hosted, Mur­ray Street Bap­tist Church, is be­ing ren­o­vated.

On Tues­day at 9 a.m., Vic­to­ria Park will be closed to the pub­lic for 30 days for a cleanup — and if any­one’s still camp­ing, states a no­tice posted at the park, they’re tres­pass­ing.

Peter­bor­ough city and county both have new by­laws that say any­one found camp­ing in mu­nic­i­pally-owned parks can be fined $200 to $10,000.

Yet some home­less campers told The Ex­am­iner on Mon­day they don’t ex­pect any­one to va­cate the Vic­to­ria Park un­less they’re forced out.

Among them was Dwayne Duguay, the home­less man who’s been camp­ing alone this sum­mer on the grounds at the former St. An­drew’s Church on Ru­bidge Street.

He spends his days in Vic­to­ria Park with other home­less peo­ple, and he pre­dicts a riot in Vic­to­ria Park on Tues­day.

“There’s no way they’re mov­ing,” he said of the tent city campers. “They’re fight­ing.”

Mean­while the city’s web­site states that it had 23 avail­able shel­ter beds on Sun­day night.

Most of those were cots the city set up in the

lower-level au­di­to­rium of the Peter­bor­ough Pub­lic Li­brary ear­lier this sum­mer, al­though there were a few in shel­ters such as Brock Mis­sion.

But that as­ser­tion was re­futed on Mon­day by Chris­tian Har­vey, former di­rec­tor of the Warm­ing Room, in a Face­book post. The post was an open let­ter to city coun­cil.

“Our shel­ter beds are at ca­pac­ity — there are not 30 empty beds on an av­er­age night, as has been re­ported,” Har­vey wrote on the Warm­ing Room’s Face­book page.

When­ever a home­less per­son or any­one con­cerned about home­less­ness has asked city coun­cil where the home­less will go, Har­vey added, they are met with si­lence.

There’s no an­swer to the ques­tion, he wrote, and when peo­ple are chased out of Vic­to­ria Park they will be forced to camp in ob­scure woods.

“I be­lieve our health as a com­mu­nity is mea­sured by how we treat the most vul­ner­a­ble in our midst,” Har­vey wrote. “This is a test of that.”

JES­SICA NYZNIK EX­AM­INER

A man camp­ing in Vic­to­ria Park sits atop the park’s hill Mon­day. Peo­ple camp­ing there were or­dered to va­cate the park by Tues­day at 9 a.m.

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